Ticket machines used to spy on workers

Issue 

SYDNEY — The State Rail Authority has been accused of breaching privacy laws by using electronic data received from station ticket machines to take disciplinary action against rail workers.

Rail unions say 10 workers had faced disciplinary action, including the threat of dismissal, after being accused of leaving work early or arriving late.

They say SRA management used electronic data from internal security keypads and data obtained from automatic station barriers that record the time and date that employees' travel passes are used.

The Australian Services Union and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union have both taken up the issue, concerned that the data is being used to collect large amounts of information that could monitor staff as well as the general public.

Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says while unions could not condone workers leaving shifts early, it was totally inappropriate for management of government entities to be using technology in this way.

A spokesman for NSW industrial relations minister Jeff Shaw says the secret monitoring of electronic data is contrary to the principles contained in the new Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act. However, the timing of the commencement of this legislation could make a prosecution difficult.

ASU official Gary Sergeant told Labor Council that five of the workers have been cleared of charges, but the other five are still facing disciplinary proceedings. He says that when the technology was introduced, workers were assured it would not be used against them in this manner.

Meanwhile, workers at the National Rail Corporation who call in sick for work are being picked up by a company-funded taxi and taken to a company-funded doctor to check their bona fides.

The practice is one of a range of tactics being used against workers, locked in dispute with the NRC, which is controlled by the commonwealth, NSW and Victorian governments.

Members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union have been locked in enterprise bargaining talks for the past 10 months, culminating in a strike on October 22.

RTBU divisional president Bob Hayden says the company has responded to the strike with a series of inflammatory actions including: ceasing payroll deductions, refusing to allow members to commence annual leave, cancelling previously approved trade union leave for delegates and the taxiing of sick workers.

The Labor Council has agreed to take the issue up with one of the three shareholding ministers, NSW transport minister Carl Scully.

[Reprinted from Workers Online, the internet magazine of the NSW Labor Council, <www.labor.net.au.workers>]